Love it or loathe it, Valentine’s Day didn’t start out the way it is celebrated today. Trace back far enough and February 14th kind of began in ancient Rome. The Romans celebrated the Festival of Lupercalia, which started on February 13 and lasted through February 15. The observation was to avert evil spirits and promote health and fertility and by all accounts, was pretty rowdy, if not downright violent. A communal lottery matched up the men and women for the three day event. If the match was right, some couples would stay together after the festival was over. Hence the romantic link. Just about.
By the third century A.D., Christianity had taken over the narrative. Three different saints named Valentine had claim to being the day’s namesake. One was supposedly imprisoned by the Roman emperor, Claudius II, for his Christian beliefs. Another is the bishop, St Valentine of Terni and a third was a Roman priest who performed weddings for soldiers who were barred from marrying. The story goes that he wore a ring with a Cupid on it and handed out paper hearts to remind Christians of their love of God. This last Valentine is often citied as the true St Valentine and by the fifth century, February 14th was formally declared as St Valentine’s feast day.
Tokens to give to loved ones were handmade until the mid 18th century with the Victorians going really nuts with it. Some of the best examples of Valentine paraphenalia comes from that era. In 1913, Hallmark began selling Valentine’s Day cards and the rest is history.
To some, the day will always be sneeringly referred to as the “Hallmark Holiday” and it doesn’t help that the retail sector have taken it up with almost the same enthusiasm as they do Christmas. And Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving ……
No, you don’t need one day to tell someone you care. But I still think its nice to observe the sentiment and say “I love you”. My husband and I have let occasions slide far too much over the last few years, using work as an excuse. This year he got a nice meal package from Waitrose, so we are going to shut up shop early, put away the electronics and actually sit down together to enjoy some good food and a bottle of wine.